LP review: Hawaiian Spotlighters - Mauna Kea Breeze
Perhaps the rarest Exotica album ever released, 1964's Mauna Kea Breeze by the Hawaiian Spotlighters is a HUGE rediscovery for the genre, which has been lovingly reissued by Exotica guru Jeff Chennault on Dionysus Records! Good luck trying to hunt down an original pressing in the wild, since Century Custom, a private label in the Los Angeles area, pressed only 200 copies.
This 2017 re-issue is top notch from the packaging down to the mastering; no matter this was a needle drop restoration from an LP. The original tapes were lost years ago and I must admit when I learned of the source being used, I had some reservations. In the wrong hands, needle drops can come out completely soulless, as the audio is digitally scrubbed removing the Hi and most of the Fi from the final product to hide any damage on the original LP source being used. Just think of those ugly sounding EU gray label CD sets with 8 albums for $10. Flat, digitally compressed and sounding like CRAP. Thankfully I’m happy to report the quality of the audio restoration by Dana Countryman is simply exceptional on this release!!!! Sure, Mauna Kea Breeze doesn’t have that slick studio sound of albums recorded at Capitol, Sunset, Western, or Goldwyn ( it was recorded inside a garage), but there is a natural warm sound to the overall recording, which is extremely pleasing to the ear. Nothing harsh or digitally sounding about this release.
For fun, I played Mauna Kea Breeze a second time on my vintage audiophile system (Thorens TD 125 long board, SME 3009 with Ortofon 2M Black, Fisher 800-C with vintage tubes) and this is when the disc came alive---3D in quality---I felt like I was sitting in the Copper Bar at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel listening to the Hawaiian Spotlighters live. Simply an amazing mastering restoration, Mr. Countryman!
Not only the audio restoration is impressive, the album was cut correctly to vinyl by using an all tube system, with a vintage Scully lathe and Westrex RA-1574 cutting head at History of Recorded Sound in Culver City. As for the red vinyl pressing, my guess is Rainbo Records in Canoga Park, California did the honors ( if there is a second pressing, I hope QRP will do the run) and a digital download coupon is part of the package as well. My only little nit-pick is that the original cover was not used for the reissue, but it’s more about me being a goofy LP collecting purist than not liking the new artwork (which is great). Original copies, when they do pop-up, go for $200 to $400 (or more), and I’m sure this 2017 reissue (costing under $20) is vastly superior to any vintage pressing around today! This is not only a deal but a total steal!!!
As a lover of Exotica music, I’m simply grateful for Jeff Chenault passion and Dionysus Records’ Lee Joseph on taking a chance re-issuing a forgotten/unknown masterpiece by the Hawaiian Spotlighters ….with there enchanting sounds of a Mauna Kea Breeze.
I can't say enough about this reissue and everyone should run over to the Dionysus website and order your copy NOW before they sell out!!!!!
MUSIC: **** out of ****
SOUND: **** out of ****